Europe invests millions in ecosystem-based fisheries management project

Fishing boats at the dock in the Netherlands, one of the countries that could benefit from a new ecosystem-based fisheries management plan.

Nearly EUR 8 million (USD 9.3 million) has been awarded by the European Union to the EcoScope consortium to promote an effective and efficient ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management in the region’s waters.

The new four-year project addresses ecosystem degradation and anthropogenic impacts that cause fisheries to be unsustainably exploited in European seas. EcoScope will develop several tools – which will include an interoperable platform, a decision-making toolbox, and online courses "to promote efficient, holistic, sustainable, ecocentric fisheries management."

According to EcoScope Project Coordinator Athanassios C. Tsikliras, EcoScope applies novel assessment methods for data-poor fisheries and marine ecosystems, along with sophisticated ecosystem models, which will be used to examine and develop fisheries management and marine policy scenarios and maritime spatial planning simulations.

The project will include an assessment of the status of all ecosystem components across European seas, and will test new technologies for evaluating the environmental, anthropogenic, and climatic impact on ecosystems and fisheries. Its approach will support policymakers, advisory bodies, and researchers, according to Tsiklira, who is also an associate professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

“Existing fisheries management practices – mainly based on single- or multi-species approaches – have been unsuccessful in sustainably exploiting fish stocks, because of weaknesses in management approaches, improper implementation, and illegal fishing,” Tsikliras told SeafoodSource. “Commercial and recreational fishing strongly impact all levels of biological organization and community structure including organisms, habitats, and ecosystems, raising a pressing need for a holistic approach to managing fisheries in the context of an ecosystem, i.e., eco-centric (ecosystem-centered or ecosystem-based) fisheries management.”

Ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) recognizes the combined physical, biological, economic, and social trade-offs affecting the fisheries sector and the need to address these trade-offs when optimizing fisheries yields from an ecosystem, Tsikliras said.

In regard to the European fisheries that are at present of particular concern, he said that fish stocks with no commercial interest have generally been overlooked and the conservation status of marine megafauna is unknown in many European areas, especially in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.  

“So, the European fisheries that are of particular concern and could benefit the most from EcoScope’s project are mostly the Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries as a whole, but also some fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic and the Baltic,” Tsikliras said. “All fisheries will benefit from the development of the EcoScope tools and platform, but especially [those] fisheries managers and decision makers that [then] have the necessary tools to help them make decisions.”

The EcoScope consortium, which received funding through the EU Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program, is comprised of 24 partners from Greece, Bulgaria, Germany, Canada, Israel, the Philippines, Spain, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands, Malta, Norway, Switzerland, and Cyprus.   

Photo courtesy of Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock


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